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Potent offense has stalled during Colorado's slump

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche are the fourth-highest scoring team in the NHL, but goals have been difficult to manufacture in recent games.

As they head into Tuesday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche have connected for only 10 goals during a 1-4-1 skid that followed a six-game winning streak.

Not counting the goal awarded in a 4-3 shootout win over Edmonton last Thursday, the Avalanche have managed to score as many as three goals just twice in the six-game slump. Colorado owns a 20-2-3 record when it scores three or more goals and an 0-12-2 mark when it doesn't.

A feeble power play isn't helping. The Avalanche have gone 0-for-9 with the man advantage in the past three games and 2-for-21 in a six-game stretch.

"It's definitely a rut," Avalanche right wing David Jones said after Tuesday's morning skate. "We play a lot of home games this month (10 of 12 in January) and it's important that we win these games at home. It should be an advantage and we have to start getting on a roll here."

The Avalanche are a mediocre 10-7-2 at home this season, 0-3-1 in the past four home games.

Jones' 12 goals are third on the team, behind Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny (15 each), but he has just 1 goal in the past 15 games. Brandon Yip has 1 goal in 10 games, Duchene 2 goals in seven games and Milan Hejduk none in four games since returning from a groin injury. Defensemen John-Michael Liles (no goals in 12 games) and Kevin Shattenkirk (no goals in 10 and no points in seven) are in prolonged slumps.

"I've definitely hit a dry spell," said Jones, who has been skating on a line with Yip and Duchene.

Making matters even more difficult, the Avalanche will face Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, last year's Vezina Trophy winner and backstop for the U.S. Olympic team. Miller has an 0-1-1 record but a 1.94 goals-against average in his career against Colorado.

"They've got a great goaltender," captain Adam Foote said. "We're not that familiar with them, but we have to make sure we come out strong and play with emotion early."

Peter Budaj will start in goal. He has a 2-1 record and 1.46 GAA in three career games against the Sabres.

Avalanche defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, sidelined since sustaining a concussion Oct. 30 against Columbus, took part in the morning skate and is close to being cleared for practices. Right wing Chris Stewart has been skating on his own while recovering from a broken hand he suffered Nov. 27 against Minnesota.

Sabres need a streak: The Sabres are opening a three-game road trip that also includes games against San Jose and Phoenix. They begin the trip with a two-game winning streak but are 12th in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind eighth-place Montreal.

"We need to make a stand, and we need to start now," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, who expressed some concern about Colorado's offense, even if it hasn't been especially potent in recent games.

"They've got real good speed, real good energy with Duchene and (Paul) Stastny and the likes of those guys," he said. "They've got a defense where a couple guys back there are very mobile. They may be as good as it comes when you look at a five-man attack where defense are involved and how hard they play in the offensive zone."

The Sabres are expected to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as right wing Patrick Kaleta will miss his second game in a row with what the team is calling an upper-body injury.

Kaleta was hurt blocking a shot in a Dec. 28 game at Edmonton. The Sabres defeated the Oilers 4-2 to end a four-game road losing streak (0-3-1) and are coming off a wild 7-6 New Year's Day shootout win at home against Boston.
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